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Chief of National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section Matthew F. Blue Delivers Remarks at EU Network Meeting on Battlefield Evidence in The Hague


The Hague

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon. For those I have not met, my name is Matt Blue, and I am the chief of the Counterterrorism Section in the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

I’m honored to join you for this meeting on EU and U.S. cooperation regarding the sharing and use of battlefield evidence (BE) and collected exploitable material.

I want to thank our Eurojust hosts for bringing us together for this important discussion and I want to thank all of you for the work you do to protect the communities you serve. Matt Olsen, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department sends his regrets for not being able to attend these meetings.

Like the organizations you all represent, the primary mission of the Department of Justice, and in particular the office I represent, is to protect the people we serve. Every day, the professionals of the Department of Justice dedicate themselves to investigating and prosecuting terrorism crimes.

But our work is more than that. Every day we work alongside our law enforcement partners, interact with our partners in the U.S. Intelligence Community, and collaborate with our foreign partners — many represented here today — to keep our communities safe.

From Afghanistan to Iraq and Syria to parts of Africa, foreign fighters have, for years, traveled to battlefields from around the world. And some of those foreign fighters have returned to their home countries or other places under false pretenses with the goal of either hiding from their prior terrorist acts or to bring terrorism to cities around the world.

And along the way, those foreign fighters have left behind trails of evidence — fingerprints on weapons and bombmaking materials, registration cards and other documentation, photos, and electronic devices. All of that evidence can be a goldmine for prosecutors and investigators. But it has to be collected, analyzed, and catalogued.

For over two decades, the United States has collected an extraordinary volume of collected exploitable material and battlefield evidence. And every day, highly trained analysts and investigators sift through that evidence — carefully analyzing it and cataloguing it for retrieval and sharing.

And sharing is our main goal — last year we disseminated hundreds and hundreds of cables, intelligence reports, and tearlines for law enforcement and intelligence with our partners around the world.

As I’ll discuss briefly in a moment, we have had some notable successes using all of this evidence to prosecute foreign fighters. My message to everyone here is that we want to build on those successes and do all that we can to support our partners to use collected exploitable material and battlefield evidence in investigations and prosecutions.

We have systematically worked to ensure that we can tell the stories, to bring to justice those who have committed acts of terror, to bring to justice those who have supported terrorist networks, to bring to justice the murderers, the bombmakers, the terrorist leaders.

Let me highlight two recent U.S. cases that involved the use of battlefield evidence.

In 2019, the United States charged Emraan Ali with providing material support to terrorism. Previously, Ali and his family traveled to Syria, where he attended ISIS military and religious training. For years, Ali worked in residential construction for ISIS and became an ISIS merchant, purchasing and selling weapons to ISIS members.

Foundational to the criminal charges against Ali was evidence in two logbooks and two hard drives collected by U.S. authorities. The information in the logbooks and on the hard drives established key details about Ali’s involvement with ISIS. Last year, Ali pled guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In this case, and in many more, BE has proved vital to securing convictions and ensuring tough prison sentences for foreign fighters. Knowing how much evidence we’ve collected over the years; I know we can bring many more individuals to justice for their criminal activity. 

I am excited that this conference is another opportunity to share with our partners the value of this evidence and how we can best support you in your efforts to seek justice and to keep your communities safe.

I’ll wrap up with where I started – thanking you for your hard work and dedication to mission we all share – keep our communities safe from foreign fighters.  I look forward to talking with you over the next couple of days and to our continued collaboration and partnership.

Thank you.

Updated April 23, 2024